Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Solo 01--Han Solo at Star's End (Daley, Brian)

Rating: 3
Year: 1979
Genre: Sci-Fi/Star Wars
Read Again? In another 10 years

First of the original Han Solo trilogy.

I devoured this book and the other "Star Wars" tie-ins over that long, dark time between the original "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back." That 12-year-old me couldn't get enough--Lucas' brainchild was in my blood, no matter that I was maybe 18 months later than every other kid on the planet in seeing the original.

This is pre-franchise "Star Wars." You won't find those two words anywhere on the book. There's just a little tag under the title letting you know that it's from the Adventures of Luke Skywalker.

But it has Han Solo! It's got Chewbacca the Wookiee! It's got the Millennium Falcon! It's got other "Star Wars" words! But there's no Empire, no Luke Skywalker, no Jabba the Hutt. Han and Chewie are in the United States Corporate Sector, where the government places profit above everything else.

After the Falcon takes some damage on a smuggling run, Han & Chewie seek out an old friend: Doc, the leader of a...consortium of enterprise-minded ship techs, who can and will do most anything, no questions asked, for the right price. "Outlaw-techs," as Daley calls them. But Doc's not there--he disappeared months ago, leaving his daughter Jessa to run the family business.

Jessa is happy to make the repairs; all Han has to do is go to a meet-spot, pick up some people, and take them where they need to go. The meet-spot is a Corporate Sector data center; the people are looking for information about missing relatives, "disappeared" as undesirables. Their first passenger is a droid, Bollux, and its little super-computer pal Blue Max. We have to have comic relief, right?

The mission goes well enough at first. Han & Chewie meet their contact, they get into the data center, Max finds the information they need, the rest of the team shows up, and it's time for a firefight and daring escape!

Yeah, almost. Before they can escape, Chewie is nabbed by the security guys--and now he's "disappeared" too.

As with Alan Dean Foster's "Alien" books, Daley's got a style peppered with expensive syllables, since apparently that's what makes something science-fictiony. Why say "work and play" when you can have "toil and enjoyment"? Why use a simple lock when "impoundment fastener" has 5 more syllables? When you tell time in Daley's "Star Wars" (and others', since many of his ideas are aped by later writers), you don't use hours. You use "Standard Time-Parts," with the capitals intact. Even the wordy Mercedes Lackey tells time in candlemarks. One less syllable, yes--but less clunky.

Yeah, yeah, I know Daley--and others who write like this--are trying to tech it up, use more "sophisticated" language, but it feels fake and clunky and doesn't really add anything of substance to the narrative. Solo comes off at times sounding like some upper-class professor rather than the fast-talkin' wise-ass.

"Star's End" isn't Great Literature, doesn't explore the histories of its main characters, and doesn't make them grow into better beings. It has the benefit of being better than anything George Lucas has done in the past 20 years, so that's worth something.

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